Thursday, May 31, 2012

Minced Dried Onion

Onion harvested from my garden.

A couple of weeks ago, I harvested 16 large bulb green onions that had gone to seed. They were starting to get really woody and I didn't want them to go to waste. So I decided to pull them all and make some minced dried onion.  I actually use minced dry onion a lot, because I can use them without my kids knowing that what I have made has onion in it. They don't care very much for onion. But if they don't know it's there then I don't hear any complaints and I enjoy the flavor.

Sliced Onion ready to dehydrate.

So I cut all these wonderful onions up and threw them on to my food dehydrator. They took awhile to dry, about a day and a half, but it was well worth the effort.

Minced Dried Onion

After they were all completely dried, I threw them into my mini food chopper (only because I don't have a food processor - one of the items on my wish list). It did the trick and I had minced dried onion. Yum! I have since used it in a couple of dishes and it has great flavor. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Harvesting Dill Seed

Dill like most fresh herbs has many health benefits. One of the great things about fresh dill is that it is excellent source of vitamin C.  Both the leaves and the seeds from dill can be utilized. I have been enjoying the leaves from my dill all winter long and now as the temperatures have warmed up my dill has finally gone to seed. So it is time to harvest the seed.

 Dill is very easy to grow. I remember as a kid my mom always talking about how hard it was to get rid of dill once you got it growing. I really don't know why she wanted to get rid of her dill, maybe she didn't like the location it was in. I was thrilled to see my dill go to seed in anticipation of bottling pickles in a couple of months.

A very easy way to harvest dill is to wait until the the stems have dried and mostly turned brown. Cut each stem off and place it seed side down inside a large paper bag.  After cutting all of your dill you may want to let it dry for several more days inside the paper bag before removing the seeds.

You can shake the bag to remove some of the seed, but I found that a lot of the seed still doesn't come off.  Instead pinch each stem between your fingers and just gently remove all of the seeds.

 I had my little guy help me out and we worked over a large bowl pulling all of our dill seed off.

We had quite the harvest in the end we have nearly 2 oz. of Dill Seed. Now I can hardly wait to make pickles.

This small bottle of dill seed (0.85oz.) cost me upwards of $3.00. I harvested twice that much off my dill plant this year. I won't have to buy dill seed ever again.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Pizza and a Movie. . .

Almost every week at our house on Friday or Saturday night we have pizza and watch a movie. It has become a tradition of sorts and something the kids really look forward to. Now this could be a very expensive tradition if we were buying take out or even frozen pizza but we almost always make homemade pizza. Not only does this save us money, but we can also make pizza night a little bit healthier.  We like to change things up and try new things.  One of our favorite pizzas is the Black Bean Pizza ( I will share this recipe with you in a future post), super healthy and yummy too. We also try to always make a whole grain crust or sometimes we stuff a Homemade Pita with pizza toppings. Today I thought I would share a few of our favorite recipes with you:

Pizza Dough

1 Cup Warm Water
1 Tb. Yeast
1 Tb. Sugar
1 Tb. Olive Oil
3/4 tsp. Salt
Millet (optional)

In a large bowl combine warm water, yeast, sugar, and oil.  Allow the yeast to dissolve then stir in salt and add enough flour to make a soft dough. Roll out and place on an oiled pizza stone sprinkled with cornmeal. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes at 350 degrees or until browned. Makes 1 -16" pizza crust.

This is my favorite recipe for pizza dough. It also makes great breadsticks. For the flour you can use any combination of white and wheat flour that you like.  I use at least half wheat flour sometimes I use mostly wheat flour. We also really like to add millet to our dough, it adds a nice little crunch, and adds more whole grain. Putting cornmeal on your pizza stone or baking sheet also makes your crust nice and crispy. Sometimes I will double or triple this recipe and then I will roll the dough out into small individual pizzas. I bake them all and then freeze them to make pizza and movie night quick and easy. The kids really like the individual pizzas because they can decorate their own.

Shaun-ta's Pizza Sauce

2 - 8 oz. Cans Tomato Sauce
1/2 to 3/4 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp. Onion Powder
1 tsp. Basil
1 tsp. Oregano

Place in a saucepan and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Making your own pizza sauce is really easy and saves money.  You can use whatever seasonings you like and make it to your own taste. For a really yummy BBQ pizza make a sauce that is 1/2 pizza sauce and 1/2 BBQ sauce. With pizza we have found that there are endless possibilities.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Seed Saving: Cauliflower and Kohlrabi

We harvested seed from our Cauliflower and Kohlrabi last week. Kohlrabi is one of the new things that we planted in our garden last fall. We really enjoyed it and definitely wanted to collect some more seed from it. When our Cauliflower from last fall went to seed it grew so tall, I could hardly believe it. It was up to the roof line of our house probably 6 feet tall and had tons of seed on it, so we let it grow because it was great forage for the bees in the spring. Finally the seed pods where fully ripened and we were able to harvest the seed. We got a ton of seed and my little guy helped me to harvest it all. You collect the seed from Cauliflower and Kohlrabi in the same way that you harvest broccoli seed. Check it out here.

My little helper.
We harvested over 400 cauliflower seeds.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Updating Our 72 Hour Kits

 I am embarrassed to admit that we have been in Texas for 2 years now and this is the first I have updated our 72 hour kits.  It was definitely time to take care of them.

The first thing that always needs updating is the food. For breakfast I use instant oatmeal and hot chocolate mix.  Our dinners consist of instant mashed potatoes and a can of meat (tuna, turkey, ham, etc.) For lunch I usually just include some protein bars. This time I got a box of peanut granola bars. Plus I have some additional snacks like beef jerky, pretzels, crackers for the kids, etc.

Whatever you decide to include, you should have enough food to last 72 hours for each member of your family.  When I updated this time I also included some other snacks with the intention of keeping the kit in my closet where we go to wait out a tornado. Three small children being confined to a closet for an extended period without snacks would be scarier than the tornado. You also need to remember to pack some water as well, as much as possible.

The next thing that is important to update is clothing, especially if you have growing children. I include a change of clothing for each child. I usually just put in something that is a size bigger than what they are wearing now so that way I can just rotate them out as they grow and I don't have a pair of clothes that don't get worn. It is also a good idea to have a pair of shoes for everyone and you can do the same thing, throw in the next size up and just keep rotating them when you need to buy new shoes. You also want to pack toiletries and first aid items, as well as medications. I have sunscreen, bug spray, soap, shampoo, lotion, toothpaste, brushes, etc. Even if you don't have a baby, diapers and wet wipes are great items to have. Diapers are great first aid items (feminine napkins are also good) and wipes are great for sanitation. We also have flashlights and lightsticks. Other important items: matches, can opener, utensils, something to heat water in, copies of important documents, some money (I have a couple rolls of quarters in mine). A battery powered radio would also be very nice and I threw in some games for the kids. There are many things you could include and each time we update ours we add a few things that might come in handy.

I also updated my container this time because we have added a child to our family and there is no way I can carry four back packs.  So I put all of the kids stuff in a plastic tote, that I could easily carry if I needed to or my plan if I need to leave my house and can't take my vehicle is to load our stuff in the wheel barrow (just like the handcart pioneers). 

Jacob and I still have our stuff in backpacks. They are nothing fancy, just some that we had from before we got married.

I feel so much better now that this job is accomplished. It was way overdue and hopefully I can keep up on it better from here on out.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Daikon another Cancer Fighting Veggie

Freshly harvested Daikon.
One of the new things we tried in our garden this year was Daikon. I was very excited for our first harvest and went in search of some ways to prepare this new vegetable. As with all new veggies I had to try it raw first. I assumed from reading about it that it was going to be bitter and it was very bitter. But, I learned some things about how to prepare it in a way that takes some of the bitterness out of it. Here are a couple of ways that I prepared this new vegetable.

Stir Fried Daikon and Carrots

1 lb. Carrots - Peeled and Julienned
1/2 lb. Daikon -Peeled and Julienned
1 Tb. Olive Oil
1 to 2 cloves minced Garlic

After you julienne your Daikon put it in a colander and sprinkle it with about 2 tsp. salt. Let it rest over a bowl for about 30 minutes. The salt will pull some of the bitter juice out of the daikon.  Then rinse the daikon really well and pat dry with some paper towel. In a skillet, heat the oil and then add the garlic, carrots, and daikon. Stir fry about ten minutes or until the veggies reach desired tenderness.  I really liked this dish, and the sweetness of the carrots made a great combo with the bitterness of the daikon.

Sweet Pickled Daikon

1/2 Cup White Vinegar
1/2 Cup Water
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/8 tsp. Turmeric
1/2 lb. Daikon Radish
1 to 2 tsp. Minced Garlic
2 Tb. Salt

In a small saucepan combine the vinegar, water, sugar, and turmeric. Bring to boil and stir to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. While your bring is cooling peel and slice your daikon into 1/4 inch rounds. Place your daikon in a colander with the salt, using the same method as in the above recipe.  Place your Daikon in a clean 1/2 pint jar, along with the minced garlic. Pour the brine over the top. Refrigerate overnight. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. I thought these were pretty good, still a little bitter, but I enjoyed them. The rest of the family didn't really care for them, however. This recipe is my own version of several that I looked at but a lot of them had the Daikon being pickled along with carrots, which I think sounds yummy and something I will try with the next harvest. I have also read that Daikon greens are really delicious and mild, even raw in a salad, so I will be trying that soon as well. 

Here is something great I learned about daikon:

"Daikon is a source of vitamin C and contains kaempferol, an antioxidant that could slow down the development of certain cancers. This exotic vegetable also supplies isothiocyanates, chemical compounds that could reduce the development of malignant tumours. Some studies have even advanced the idea that daikon could improve digestion."

I have lots of cancer in my family coming from both my mother and father's side of the family so I am always trying to increase the amount of good cancer fighting foods in my diet. It looks like I just found another one and it was super easy to grow.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Harvesting and Drying your Own Herbs

Last week I harvested 6 bunches of fresh parsley from my garden. It was beautiful, so green and it smelled so good. I have a large abundance of parsley right now and I wanted to be able to preserve it. Fresh and dried herbs are very expensive. Growing and drying your own herbs is very economical and easy to do. 

I washed the parsley well and loaded it up pretty heavily on my food dehydrator. Jacob and I inherited our food dehydrator from Jacob's Mom and Dad and we have used it so much for all kinds of things from dried fruit to jerky and now I am using it to dry herbs. I filled all my trays and on the lowest heat setting I dried the parsley. It dried very quickly. It only took about 4 hours.


 After all the parsley was dried I simply removed the leaves from the stems. It came off easily.  It was still a beautiful bright green and still smelled amazing. From my 6 bunches of fresh parsley I got 2 Cups of dried Parsley.

 In the store 2 Cups of dried parsley would cost about $4.00 and 6 bunches of fresh parsley would cost about $6.00. This is an easy way to save money and get the benefit of having both fresh and dried herbs.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Teacher Appreciation Gifts

I printed these cute seed packets online for free.

This week I made some really cute and very inexpensive Teacher Appreciation gifts. I usually do handmade gifts for every occasion not only does this save money, but it makes the gift just a bit more special.
I added a personal message to the back.

These gifts are so simple to make. You can use some of your newly collected seeds or pick up some inexpensive seed packets at the store. I found the idea and template for the watering can here and the seed packets I printed from here. I made two sizes, a larger one for my daughter's teacher at school and some smaller ones for the teacher's at our church. They turned out super cute and minus a bit of paper, some ink, and some time, they were free.

Organizing Your Seeds

My shoebox full of seeds.
I had some fun organizing and getting my newly collected seeds taken care of this week. I keep my seeds in a small shoebox and try and keep them organized according to planting times. I think in the future I would like to use some sort of index card filing system, but for know I just keep them grouped together.  I know as my seed collection grows I will need to do some more organizing work. I love the fact that you can print free seed packets online. There are some really cute ones available or just some that are plain and simple.Plus they come in various sizes. Here are some links for some of the ones I like to use:

                                                                                                           I like to include the planting dates on my seed packets.
There are some really cute ones available in all different sizes.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Our Focus on Gardening

  If you have been reading our blog for aw while you might be wondering why so many of our posts have to do with gardening.  One factor we consider is where to put our efforts into many of self sufficient options. One of our focuses has been with gardening, we do eat every day after all.  Over the last few years an especially this last year we have been moving away from as much of the processed food as possible.  We have always ate pretty healthy we cook meals nearly every night and rarely ever use those "box" meals.  We now almost never use them and make most meals from scratch.  We are even trying to avoid a lot of the canned goods from the store.  This takes either a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables or home canned (bottled) foods to accomplish this.  However it is hard to do this when, we don't always had the money to buy the good fresh fruits and vegetables.

  A garden is a way we can provide ourselves with more fruits and vegetables than we can otherwise afford.  Gardens can be extremely productive and very very cost effective.  Additionally these foods will be of higher quality and more nutritious than can ever be found in the stores.  We can even surpass the "organic" foods, with foods we produce that are far better than any "organic" food you can find.  We can plant varieties that can't be found in the stores because they don't ship well.  There are an untold number of gems out there to find grown and enjoy.  There are some wonder foods full of antioxidants we can grow in our own yards, at fractions of the cost of the new "super foods" marketed in the stores. 

  There have been proven benefits found from working in the soil including increase serotonin levels, anti depressive affect as well as causing addiction.  Yes I said addiction, just check if you are listening, but gardening is addicting.  Especially when you start to harvest and taste what these vegetables really taste like.  When you taste a home grown tomato you pick ripe off the vine you will wonder what that thing is they call tomatoes in the grocery store.

  It is inspiring to plant these little seeds only to watch them grown and bear fruit.  It is fun to learn what makes a certain variety excel and what pests are causing issues with it.  What happens if we plant it over here or next to this other plant.  After your season growing jump online and order some free seed catalogs. Spend the winter reading them and learning, planning and dreaming.  Plan to try out some new things next season.  I love to do this, I pour over the catalogs all winter.    

 When we garden, even if it is in some pots on a balcony of an apartment we are gaining a little bit of independence and a level of self reliance.  Any effort we make in this effort helps us along this path.  I have a friend that was explaining to me that he had a seed bank in a #10 can among his food storage.  He indicated that it could plant a 1 acre survival garden if he ever needed it.  The issue is he does not garden now, he has no green thumb he says.  Well if you have gardened a little bit you know that you will have troubles, you will kill plants, you'll over water, overlook pests, plant things in the wrong area, plant too soon or too late etc.  All of these happen in good garden beds even excellent garden beds.  Expecting to just plant seeds when you most need them and gain a harvest is a little bit naive.  You may well be able to harvest some but with even some basic experience gardening he would be better able to pull a harvest out.

 You know one thing that keeps people from gardening is the fear of failure.  When you garden you will have failures, count on it, but you will also have successes.  Start out simple, pick up some vegetable plants from  from the nursery or even home depot and plant them.  You will find it enjoyable and you'll love the results.  Get out there kill some plants, plant some seeds to deep, water too much, learn by doing.  Most people will only have 40-60 growing seasons in their adult life, that is not many opportunities to learn and try to master this art.  Every season, you will have even more success and increased harvests.  But, you must start sometime.  Please make it this year.  Or if you are already a gardener try to incorporate some new things to your garden, explore other methods of growing, help someone new get a small garden started or even share a corner of yours with a friend.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Seed Saving: Broccoli

Broccoli plant that has gone to seed.

Cole Crops include a variety of plants belonging to the Cruciferae or mustard family, including Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Kohlrabi and Kale. These crops enjoy cool seasons and are highly nutritious.

Our family loves Cole Crops. This year we have learned to harvest the seed from these plants so we can continue to grow more. The seeds from these plants can all be harvested in the same way.

Here is how you harvest the seeds:

Fully ripened Seed Pods
1. Allow your broccoli plant to flower (it is best to reserve one plant just for seed, do not trim this plant for consumption, just allow it to flower). After the plant flowers small green pods will grow.  Allow these pods to fully ripen on the plant before harvesting your seeds.  The pods will turn a light brown color and dry out. Once the pods are brown you can pull up the plant. Green pods will rarely produce viable seed, even if they are allowed to dry after the plant has been pulled.

2. Inside each pod are tiny black seeds (broccoli seeds). You can open each pod individually, but there is an easier way to harvest all of the seeds.  Simply put all of the pods into a paper bag. Smash the bag with a mallet or walk on it or simply crunch it with your hands, this is what I did. The seed will separate from the pod shell and fall to the bottom of the bag.

3. Now you can simply pour your seeds into a suitable container and store in a cool, dark place. We actually store our seeds in the refrigerator.

In each pod are tiny black broccoli seeds.
Place all the pods in a paper bag.
Smash to separate the seed from the pod.

The seed will fall to the bottom of the bag.
Harvested broccoli seed.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Becoming a Seed Saver

With each passing season Jacob and I are becoming more and more proficient gardeners. We learn something new every time we throw a new seed into the ground. In an effort to become even more Self Reliant in the area of gardening and food production we knew that it would be very important for us to learn how to save seeds. Yes, seed is fairly cheap and we can buy seed, but our goal is to move closer and closer to becoming completely self reliant. We really want to be prepared so that if there comes a time when we have to depend on ourselves to grow our own food and seed is not available to purchase we will have the skills and knowledge needed to provide for ourselves and our family. I have really loved learning the art of seed saving. There is really so much to learn because all seed cannot be saved in the same way.  One of the websites I have utilized in my efforts to learn this skill is the site for the International Seed Saving Institute. It gives basic seed saving instructions for 27 common vegetables. I will also be documenting the things we are learning about seed saving, so you can use our blog to help you in your efforts to learn how to save seeds as well. Good Luck!